Aspen targets Heli-Expo show

 - January 27, 2010, 11:40 AM

Aspen Avionics is exhibiting at this month’s Heli-Expo convention in Houston, marking the first time the six-year-old company has had a presence at a helicopter show.

The Albuquerque, N.M. avionics maker started out with a line of flat-panel displays for light general aviation airplanes and has slowly expanded its product portfolio since then to include class-3 airplanes weighing up to 12,500 pounds and many helicopter types. The company’s EFD 1000 and MFD 1000 products are flying in a variety of helicopters, from Hueys and OH-58s to the MD500 and Bell 206. New STCs for the 206 and Bell 407 are expected to be in hand in time for Heli-Expo.

Aspen president John Uczekaj said the helicopter market is becoming increasingly important for the company, which has delivered products for more than 2,500 fixed-wing aircraft cockpit installations since its formation. “Our price and integrated AHRS [attitude and heading reference system] technology are key differentiators in the helicopter market,” he said, noting that the Evolution EFD 1000 product carries a list price of $14,995 and the MFD 1000 unit sells for $11,995. “We’re eager to demonstrate our capabilities in person to helicopter owners.”

Aspen designed its primary and multifunction displays to interface with a wide range of third-party hardware, including traffic alert systems, radios and GPS navigators. The company has also introduced its own XM weather receiver and is gearing up for several new product introductions later in the year.

Helicopter pilots will be particularly interested to learn more about Aspen’s plans to bring synthetic-vision technology to the rotorcraft market. Aspen expects to demonstrate its SVS for the first time this summer at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh and plans to have a version for helicopters available soon after. “Our higher-resolution displays allow us to do some things other avionics makers can’t,” Uczekaj said. “We’re trying to leapfrog the competitors with our SVS” designed using terrain data from Jeppesen. All current Evolution primary flight displays will be software upgradable to SVS, he added.

Cobham has a considerable lead in the helicopter avionics retrofit market with its FlightLogic SVS flight display upgrade, but Uczekaj said Aspen can find plenty of ready buyers based on the low prices of its products alone. “When you put our displays next to some of the others, the difference is really noticeable, even with our smaller screens,” he said.

The Evolution displays carry integrated AHRS and air-data computers, packing a lot of capability into displays that are intended to replace two vertical round cockpit instruments. A third display can be added without the internal AHRS and ADC, an option that reduces the purchase price to $7,495. Still, Uczekaj said a one-display upgrade has been the most popular route for fixed-wing aircraft owners and he expects many helicopter operators will start by installing one or two Evolution displays to replace their ADIs, HSIs, airspeed indicators, altimeters and other instruments.

Although it’s a relatively young company, Aspen Avionics is a veteran exhibitor at shows such as EAA AirVenture (where the company launched its Evolution product line in 2007), Sun ’n’ Fun, the Aircraft Electronics Association Convention and AOPA Expo/Summit. “As our market grows, so will our visibility at aviation trade shows and conventions,” said marketing director Brad Hayden. “We’re looking forward to expanding our marketing outreach to Heli-Expo this year and are excited for helicopter owners to experience the benefits of our flight display technologies up close.”